When I started out in archery, my first compound bow was a second-hand model. It had the wrong draw length for me, and the draw weight was far too heavy. It was meant for a six-foot-tall man. I was a 12-year-old kid. I was new to the sport, however, so I didn’t know any better. I was just happy to have a bow at all, and it was affordable compared with the new models at the local archery store.
While a brand new bow is probably on many bowhunters’ wish lists, it can be tough to justify the cost. Fortunately, there are plenty of bows on the used market with the same performance ratings as many of the latest compounds. If you aren’t sure what you’re looking for, however, you could end up with a bow that doesn’t fit you or worse, a model that’s damaged and likely to cause an injury. To ensure you make a worthwhile—and safe—investment, keep the following factors in mind.
The whole process of shooting properly is based on having a bow that’s set up exactly to your specifications. This is where problems can come into play when buying used. Draw length, in particular, is one of those things you just can’t compromise on. Many new and used bows have a fixed draw length, meaning it cannot be adjusted. To change the draw length, you would need to buy new cams, which can be very expensive. So, if a bow isn’t your exact length and it can’t be adjusted, keep looking.
We’ve all seen what appear to be great deals online, such as last year’s model selling for 50 per cent of retail. But what if the bow’s draw weight is 10 pounds heavier than you can comfortably shoot? Don’t even give it a second look. When shooting a bow, you’ll never be accurate if you’re always struggling to pull the string back—and keep it back—while trying to focus on the target.
If a used bow’s string is not already blown up, it should be fine, right? Wrong. Always examine the string to make sure it’s in good shape. An old and poorly maintained string can cost you hundreds of dollars if it needs to be replaced. Does it look dry or fuzzy? Has it been waxed lately? Ask the owner about his or her maintenance routine. If there are any red flags, it’s not the bow for you.
Problems with limbs and axles can be tough to identify, but check for anything out of the ordinary. Maybe something doesn’t look square or there’s a small mark that looks like a deep scratch in the paint. Any flaw in the limbs, cam or axles could be a sign that the bow has had some serious damage, perhaps due to a dry fire, for example. Often after a dry fire, the bow might still shoot for a few hundred arrows, but with most brands, a dry-fired bow is a ticking time bomb. Stay clear.
To get a better price, people typically try to sell their bows as a package with all the accessories included. Sights, rests, stabilizers and quivers are usually a matter of personal preference, so if you don’t like what’s included, try to buy the bow bare. You’ll come out ahead financially and be happier when you choose your own accessories.
Prince George, B.C., contributor Nick Trehearne owns three bows. One is currently for sale.
Facebook is quickly becoming one of the most popular online places for buying and selling used bows. The group “Archery Buy and Sell Canada” is a good place to start. You can also find second-hand bows for sale on eBay, Kijiji and Craigslist, as well as some online bowhunting forums. And don’t forget to check at your local bow shop for used deals.